In the photo below, which was taken this past winter, I am with Charm Tong, the Shan advocate and educator whose education projects continue to inspire the Shan youth we work with and many others to help themselves and their fellow students/neighbors fight against oppression.
Here is an update about Burma and Shan State, which outlines some of the most egregious ongoing human rights violations and problems in Burma:
1. Thousands of Rohyingya Muslims in Rakhine State, Burma, have been driven from their homes as a result of racial/religious hatred incited by the militant Buddhist monk, Wirathu, (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-30930997), who has recently “drawn the ire of the UN by calling its special envoy to Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), Yanghee Lee, a ‘bitch’ and a ‘whore’” when she spoke out on behalf of the Rohingya, who do not receive adequate food and medical care in the detention camps where they have been driven.
2. President Obama’s second visit to Burma in the fall of 2014 fell short of expectations:
3. The Burmese military still wages war against the Kachin ethnic group, many of whom are jade miners, who are addicted to heroin. New York Times quote, December 2014:
“Try digging all day with an iron rod and see how you feel.”
BUM HKRANG, a jade miner and recovering addict in Myanmar who said he had discovered that using heroin helped him work 24 hours straight.
4. Unfortunately, Shan State farmers still plant opium poppies to survive. See NYTimes video at this link
5. Recent fighting in northern Shan State has forced thousands to flee to China:
The good news: Thanks to your help, our projects in Thailand continue to thrive. We now support two migrant camp schools and give scholarships to many other Shan migrant children so they can attend Thai schools. (Josh Kletschka, who helped start Schools for Shan Refugees was in Thailand to monitor the projects this winter and is many of the photos.)
Above: View School, Shan construction workers’ camp. There are 20 students at this school, but younger brothers and sisters occasionally attend also and are remarkably well behaved. The children are wearing hats made by Linda Rochester and friends from the UK. Some children have dolls made by Barbara Mankowski of Oregon, USA.
Above: Kan Kanook School (40 students), Shan Construction workers’ camp on a day when they received hand puppets made by the generous women of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Underwood, MN.
Scholarship day at Poon Yaing Shan agricultural workers Camp. (54 students receive scholarships)
Many thanks to our generous donors who make hope of a better life possible for these hard-working Shan children and youth!
See you at the spring fundraiser May 5th. (Save the date!) More Information to follow.
Schools for Shan Refugees
Dear friends of Shan Refugees:
Conditions in Burma are abysmal. The military is waging open warfare against people protesting the takeover of their country. It is not just the protesters who are in danger: Loi Kaw Wan, an encampment of Shan displaced persons, on the urma/Thai border north of Chaing Mai, has been shelled and residents cannot farm their land for fear of attack.
In the past, we supported six orphans at this site, and I am deeply saddened by the plight of their people. https://myanmar-now.org/en/news/myanmar-military-artillery-shells-explode-near-shan-idp-camps. Below photo is with young women who lived at this encampment.
You can read more about the military coup here:
The Burmese military blocked internet service for more than a month. When they still had it, a former student wrote simply, "Scared, Teacher."
NEWS FROM THAILAND AND OUR EDUCATION PROGRAMS:
Thailand is having a resurgence of COVID cases, and only 1% of the people have been vaccinated.
Our schools have been closed for some weeks and are tentatively scheduled to reopen in early June. When in session, they accomplish amazing things. Here is some information we gleaned from the last report from Shan Youth Power, SYP, which manages the education
programs, wrote about several outstanding students. She studies as Secondary level, grade at Nawamin Payap High School. Nong Tida always has a passion for working at social work organizing, and leading the students in the community for activities
such as organizing reading books, decorating the school to be clean, leading the students for environment activity, encouraging the community to reduce plastic by collecting the money and buying plates, spoons for using in community, such as birthday party. She always happy to join social activity workshops or camps that are provided by Shan Youth Power. She has a strong heart to help the community and wants to see migrant people have better future.
Nong Tida may not be outstanding in language skills such as English but she is an excellent in social work. In SYP, we are not just developing in academic studies, we guide them to be who they are, to follow their dreams. We believe people have different talents, which means that although we cannot be outstanding in everything, at least we do good for people, for society.
Noung Shwe Kyar is one of the outstanding students from KarnKanook2 Migrant School. She has been studying at Chiang Mai Vocational College as a first-year student in Design, academic year 2020.
Her words: I am one of the students who has received a scholarship from Bernice [ie, Schools for Shan Refugees]. I got scholarship since elementary school until grade-9. I knew about this scholarship from one alumni student who is living in the same camp with me. We learned at Migrant school together. I thought that I had difficult circumstances and my family had very low income. This scholarship can provide for food expenses at school or tuition fee. And volunteer teachers from Shan Youth Power also come to teach at our camp. Therefore, I got the scholarship. The difficult thing I have faced is the cost of passport and visa extension fees. There are 4 people in my family and we all are using passports as well... this year there is an additional blood test and covid-19 test. Due to Covid-19 pandemic many people had lost their jobs and it is hard to find a job.
My mom works as a housecleaner during this period it hard for her to get a job too. Especially, if you are migrant workers. Because some employers are afraid of migrant workers. They think that they will get infection with Covid-19 from migrant workers.
For example, we went to clean in a house but they did not want us to enter the house. As for my father, in the past he had many jobs and it was easy to get a job to work. Now, there is not many jobs like before so, it is hard for him to get a job too. And he has to work to pay for food day to day and no savings. In the past, migrant workers like us wouldn't study until high school. They would only study till middle school then start to work. [Our program is extending the education of Shan youth.]
We are completing a report about our teachers—five of whom were migrant camp students and got scholarships from us, some, like Nong Shwe Kyar, for as many as nine years. I will forward it soon.
In the meantime, we are hoping to keep the schools and scholarship programs afloat. We are ever so grateful to those of you who have donated. That money is in safekeeping until the education programs resume. If you have not donated this year and wish to do so, scholarships range from $30.00 per year for elementary students to $100, $200, and $300 per year for older students, attending vocational schools. Donations can be made through Pay Pal at our website: www.shanrefugeeschools.org OR you may write a check to Schools for Shan Refugees and send it to
Mary Worner , Treasurer
28424 Water Street Road, Underwood, MN 56586
Many thanks to the Unitarian Universalist Church in Underwood for their continued support in the form of an annual grant. We are grateful. The Shan youth are grateful.
If we remain COVID free into fall, we plan to hold a 3-course Shan dinner fundraiser in Minneapolis. Hold the date: Saturday, October 9!
Bernice Johnson, Vice President Schools for Shan Refugees, Inc.
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